Atone finds daylight late to run down Ivar in Pegasus Turf

Atone finds daylight late to run down Ivar in Pegasus Turf
Photo: Liz Lamont / Eclipse Sportswire

Atone, given a ground-saving trip by jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., found room at the top of the stretch and powered through the lane to reel in Ivar in the final sixteenth of a mile and win Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf at Gulfstream Park.

It was the third consecutive win in the Pegasus Turf for Ortiz, following back-to-back victories with Colonel Liam in 2021 and 2022. Ortiz, honored earlier in the week with his fourth career Eclipse Award as North America’s champion jockey, won three prior races on Saturday's Gulfstream program: the $150,000 La Prevoyante (G3) with Personal Best and $200,000 William L. McKnight (G3) with Red Knight.

“It means a lot,” Ortiz said. “I’m just enjoying the moment and what is happening in my career right now. I have to thank my agent Steve Rushing for doing a great job, and thanks to all the owners and trainers for supporting me. They make me the happiest man in the world to be honest. I’m living the dream.”

For trainer Mike Maker, it was his second Pegasus Turf victory following Zulu Alpha in 2020. Earlier wins Saturday came with Red Knight and Endorsed in $150,000 Fred W. Hooper (G3).

“It feels great to win. It doesn’t get old,” Maker said. “It’s been a great day, and I’ve got two more tonight at Turfway (Park).”

Ortiz settled the Three Diamonds Farm-owned Atone in fifth along the rail as 35-1 long shot One More Bid and Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith took the field through an opening quarter-mile in 23.26 seconds. King Cause, Atone’s stablemate who drew into the field following the scratch of Who’s the Star, pressed the leader at odds of 70-1, with Wit and Lady Speightspeare right behind. Wit was attempting to give Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher his third straight win in the Pegasus Turf, while the Grade 1-winning mare Lady Speightspeare was competing for the first time against males in her career finale.

The order remained unchanged following at half in 47.30 seconds, with Ortiz working Atone off the rail though still blocked by horses including Ivar to his direct outside. Ivar and Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano were able to gain some separation from Atone and make a run at the leaders on the far turn, but Ortiz steered out wider to find room and set sights on Ivar once straightened for home.

“Irad looked like he wanted to be forwardly placed out of the gate and it looked like a couple of others had the same idea,” Maker said. “He settled in nice, saved some ground and got lucky to get some racing room when it counted.”

Atone came with a steady run down the center of the track and was able to edge clear of a stubborn Ivar approaching the wire to win by three-quarters of a length in 1:46.19 over a firm turf course. It was 1 ½ lengths back to late-running Speaking Scout in third, while Lady Speightspeare finished a neck in front of One More Bid for fourth.

“It was perfect, every step of the way. I was so happy,” Ortiz said of his trip. “I was following a live horse, Wit, and then by the three-eighths pole the horse that I had to beat (Ivar) was outside of me so I had to take two or three strides to let him move before I made my move. I waited but at the same time I tipped my way out so when I hit the clear my horse was there. All the credit goes to the horse.”

King Cause, Master Piece, Wit, Good Governance, Hurricane Dream, Decorated Invader and City Man completed the order of finish. City Man went off as the narrow 7-2 betting favorite out of his victory over Grade 1-winning stablemate Decorated Invader in the Dec. 31 Fort Lauderdale (G2) at Gulfstream.

Bred by Godolphin, Atone is a 6-year-old Into Mischief gelding that earned seventh career victory from 23 starts and first graded company after placing four previous times and running fourth by 1 ¾ lengths in last year’s Pegasus Turf. He went 1-for-8 in 2022 and was beaten less than six lengths combined when second in the Mint Million (G3) and Forbidden Apple (G3) and third in the Dinner Party (G2), and was fourth by a length in the Maker’s Mark Mile (G1).

“He was a hard-luck horse last year,” Maker said. “He’s always been right there, and today was his day.”

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